On December 30, 2002 we heard from Helene F. about an unusual side effect she associated with Lipitor:
“I have a question about Lipitor. Recently, our family physician prescribed Lipitor for my husband and myself. We both have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and take glyburide. My husband also takes Avandia. Since we started on Lipitor our blood sugar has been rising rapidly. Could this be linked to Lipitor?”
At the time there wasn’t much information about such a side effect. Most physicians doubted that there could be any connection between statins and increased blood sugar. We immediately consulted Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, who has headed up the UCSD (University of California, San Diego) Statin Study about this question. She responded to our query about this controversial issue on Dec. 31, 2002:
“There are two studies that have shown unexpected significant increases in blood sugar or in hemoglobin A1C (which is an index of blood sugar over time) with statin use. Though increases are modest on average, some people appear to experience more considerable increases.”
Even with this information, many physicians doubted such a connection. When we wrote about statins and blood sugar elevations, we received angry letters from doctors suggesting that we would scare patients off statins unnecessarily. We also heard from other patients:
“I am so glad I am not going nuts!
I was on Zocor and now on Lipitor for the last 3 years. I started with 40mg and my blood sugar went to 180. Dr. recently changed me to 80mg and now my blood sugar is 250.
He says I am CRAZY and it can’t happen. It is nice to know even the prescribing information says it is possible.”

On Jan. 21, 2002, E. K. wrote: “I was recently informed after a series of blood tests over a six month period that my blood glucose levels were elevated. I have been taking Lipitor for about a year or so and was wondering if that might be contributing to my rise in blood glucose levels. I don’t want to take a medication that improves one medical situation (cholesterol) while making something else worse (blood sugar).
P.B. wrote on April 4, 2004: “I wish to inform you that I have been on Lipitor for about a year. I started developing leg pains and elevated blood sugar. I discontinued the Lipitor and my leg pains are going away and my blood sugar levels are coming down.”

O.C. wrote on Feb. 27, 2007: “I was put on Lipitor & found it shot my blood sugar through the roof. My doctor suggested two courses of action; either double my dose of metformin to control my diabetes or switch to another drug, ie. Crestor or Zocor. Do either of these drugs affect blood sugar? Or should I stick with Lipitor & double metformin?”

Now, roughly eight years later, we feel vindicated.
A study in The Lancet confirms that statins may indeed increase the likelihood of developing type-2 diabetes 
(The Lancet, online, Feb. 17, 2010). Although the risk is not high, about 9 percent, it is real. People who are especially susceptible may, as Dr. Golomb pointed out seven years ago, see substantial increases in blood sugar when taking statins.
We bring this to your attention only as a precaution. If you do not experience a rise in blood sugar while taking statins, congratulations. That’s great. If, on the other hand, your blood sugar levels start to go up and you become “prediabetic” or if you are a diabetic and your glucose levels become hard to control, please contact your physician and bring the new research to her attention.
And if you have a story to share about statins and blood sugar (or any other side effects) please share them below. Perhaps someday health professionals will listen more carefully to the stories that patients have to share about drug-induced side effects.

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  1. Doreen
    Essex
    Reply

    I too have been on 40mg of simvastatins for 10 years, 5 years ago doctors knew I had the lung fibrosis, I knew I was getting very breathless but was only told I had this in august this year. Both my shoulders are agony but my left is worse, also my teeth are getting loose. Went to my gp and he has said come off the statins. I curse the day I was ever put on them especially as I was only put on them because of my family history not because I had high cholesterol.

  2. Sherman J. K.
    Salem,Or.
    Reply

    I was put on the milder statin Zocor for 4 yrs., then suddenly, I had to have a value replacement or die, June 10, 2014, I was dying with her at home. My wife called EMT’s and they took me off to hospital. June 13, 2014 I had valve replacement and two by-pass veins done on heart also. While in hospital, I received no statin’s and discharged with no use of statin’s for 3 months. My glucose went down to low 100’s and my A1C proved that. I was at 2000 daily Metformin before surgery. Now, in September 2014, they put me on Astrovanstatin. In 30 days my glucose is over 250 daily, and my cholesterol is 300; before surgery my cholesterol was 100. Now I am on Zocor for 2 months and then I’ll be back with primary doctor for testing again.

  3. julie
    Reply

    My husband went into the hospital 10/2013 with a “coldness” feeling in his chest. His bp was 154/100(never high before). All cardiac enzymes were normal. Had a cardiac cath, vessels completely clean, chol was 440, trig 1100. Left hosp with metoprolol 25 mg bid, losartan htz 50/12.5 1 qd, zocor 20 mg and tricor 145.
    Lipids 3 weeks later chol 200, trig 250. Had repeat labs last week chol 690 trigl 3600. He follows a good diet now and has lost 15 lbs, walks 30 min a day. One of his meds was making him very dry and he could hardly swallow. Dr said to stop the losartan. Seemed to help. He pees all day and up 4-5 times a night (from the metoprolol?) bp has been in the 110’s over 70’s. Dr wants labs redrawn tomorrow.
    His cholesterol and triglycerides are way WORSE now than originally. Lab error??? Could it be one of his meds doing it??? Have to see the dr. Wednesday. I just want to STOP all these meds for a few weeks and see what his numbers are. He has felt lousy since starting all these meds :(

  4. RockyBob
    Reply

    To clarify the last comment, even those of us with FH (my chol. is 599) frequently live to ripe old ages with astronomical cholesterol levels. My arteries are completely clear!! So if cholesterol is bad, and folks with 250 cholesterol are doomed, how come at least twenty percent of FHers have clear arteries even in our sixties and seventies? (I’m 66). I’ve written and visited cardiac experts and I’m here to tell you they have no ideas. What’s worse, they don’t care or at least aren’t interested enough to investigate. There’s too much money in just prescribing statins…

  5. condoline
    Reply

    The notion that cholesterol (unless it is extremely high, as with familial hypercholesterolemia) is a “bad” thing is being more and more held up to question. Inflammation seems now to be the more likely culprit in atherosclerosis, but of course this doesn’t make good advertising material and therefore doesn’t suit the pharmaceutical companies at all. If statins are causing your neuropathy, there is every likelihood that they are also causing other problems. For example, have you had a lung X-ray lately? You may have interstitial pulmonary fibrosis. Or what about your muscles? They aren’t what they used to be, and not because of age.
    I stopped statins on my own, got my old medical records which gave proof positive that Pravachol caused my pulmonary fibrosis (I am on oxygen 24/7 now, due to being put back on statins in 2009 after 15 years off them), and thanked my lucky stars that I did not ask my Mayo Clinic doctor for “permission” to stop the Zocor he had put me on a year earlier. He would never have assented at that time – but because of the past medical records I brought in, later lung function testing, X-rays, blood tests and other things he was forced to conclude that I am statin intolerant and says he would never, ever put me on statins again.
    Had I not stopped but instead had listened to his insistence on my taking the “little bit” of Zocor (10 mg) – or, worse yet, had I listened to my local doctor’s insistence that I raise the dosage to 20 mg per day – I would by now be dead. No question about it. Doctors don’t always know best.

  6. Robert C.
    Reply

    I had a reaction to cephalexin (Kefex) while on simvastatin and had to change to another antibiotic. My Doctor was not aware that this could happen. I noted in the literature that came with my next script that the reaction was possible.

  7. RockyBob
    Reply

    My cholesterol is 599, my LDL is 540 and yet, at age 66, my coronary arteries are whistle clean (by EBCT). My condition traces back to my great grandparents, both of whom lived well past 90 and never had a hint of heart problems. It turns out that about 20 percent of familial hypercholesterolemics, me included, have absolutely no problems associated with our astronomical cholesterol and LDL.
    I’ve written to multiple “experts” about the significance of this, and the universal response is some form of “no one knows”. “Genetics” is often thrown out, but of course “genetics” means nothing because no one knows which genes or how the genes manifest in protection. More likely, of course, is that there is only a weak association between cholesterol and plaque and no cause-and-effect.
    If there were cause-and-effect, why should so many FHers have no plaque at all. The difference between association and causality is profound; cellphone usage and obesity rates associate (both have gone up), but it is almost certain that there is no causality. Cellphone usage does not cause obesity and obesity does not cause cellphone usage.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if medicine was a little more rigorous eliciting causality from the enormous pile of useless associations?

  8. AW
    Reply

    Have been on Simvastatin and immediately had post nasal drip and chronic cough. Went on for months. Dr. said my symptoms “weren’t in the literature.” She switched me to yet another statin to no avail. I stopped the statin and the cough is gone, a bit of the nasal drip remains but continues to lesson after only a week off the statin.

  9. L lynass
    Reply

    High Cholesterol runs in my family and at 56 my cholesterol is 6.88. Two years ago I was prescribed Simvastatin starting off at 20mg now on 40mg nightly. About 18 months ago I noticed that I was becoming increasingly out of breath when climbing steep hills or stairs. This progressed to housework shopping, anything involving exertion of any kind and I became distressed as it was affecting / is affecting my normal activities.
    I don’t smoke have always walked everywhere and climbed stairs instead of using lifts. I no longer want to do anything as I’m so tired and can’t be bothered as I can’t catch my breath. I’ve been to the GP who dismisses the fact that it could be statin related. I also get terrible cramp and my big toes stand up. I have had pain in my left shoulder so bad that no over the counter medication resolves it. I thought that I had arthritis. My life has become a complete misery and I feel so depressed.
    This is ridiculous surely my GP should investigate the link. I’m starting to feel suicidal because I feel I’m going crazy. It would be interesting to know if anyone else had experienced similar symptoms. Incidentally I stopped taking the simvastatin about a week ago and I’m going to monitor things myself.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: We suspect you’ll find several other people who have had similar symptoms. We hope you start to feel better soon. Please do let your GP know that you have stopped the statin and why.

  10. EK
    Reply

    My fasting blood glucose was 77. This was typical for me. I am underweight. After 5.5 weeks on 40 mg pravastatin, then a three week “rest” because I was so sick I could not make it to the MD, my FBG jumped to 92, with an A1C of 5.7. 20% increase. I have the lab work to prove it.
    I also have persistent muscle weakness such that I can only walk in hiking boots.
    No diabetes in my family.
    Do not let any MD nag you into taking a statin unless you have clearly demonstrated CVD. Dangerous medicines.
    Now I have to fear full blown diabetes. I never would have gotten this without the statin, given my weight and history.
    Its not obesity that’s causing the epidemic in diabetes. Its the pharmaceutical industry and their statins.
    Big Pharma is getting rich selling them, and, even more profitably, the massive amounts of stuff you will need once you become diabetic. Meters, test strips, lancets, meds, special foods etc.
    Statins are for those with clear CVD only.

  11. DeDe
    Reply

    My husband has been on lovastatin for five weeks.
    One day he started having severe pain in his belly. He complained of acid reflex like symptoms.
    The pain continued to get worse. We went to the ER and they found he had a severe case of Pancreitis
    Some times brought on by Medicine reaction. The doctors took him off the medicine.
    Has there been any other complaints? I know in our area there has been.
    His Pancreas was causing so much pain his hospital stay was five days and they said it could last another week.
    When he went to the ER his Lipase count was 4224. When we left it was down to 80; his Pancreas was trying to digest it self.
    Any info would be welcomed.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE:
    Pancreatitis is a recognized side effect of statin-type drugs. In the official prescribing information you will find the following under lovastatin:
    “Gastrointestinal: pancreatitis, hepatitis, including chronic active hepatitis, cholestatic jaundice, fatty change in liver; and rarely, cirrhosis, fulminant hepatic necrosis, and hepatoma; anorexia, vomiting”

  12. Crystal
    Reply

    I have just started using Lipitor 10 mg a day. I started it beginning of December and got a cold at the end of December. I have been sick for over a month and a half and have a very bad cough. I’ve never been sick for so long in my life. Could the cough be a side effect of the Lipitor?

  13. cathy m
    Reply

    I was on various statins for a number of years and they all caused problems with muscle pain and weakness. 5 years ago I was told I was type 2 diabetic, I’m not on medication for the diabetes, I test my blood glucose regularly and it’s usually anywhere between 5 and 7.5…last week my gp told me …after a diabetic review that my blood glucose was better than a non diabetic…. I stopped the statins 9 months ago because of the pain in my legs… and have since found out that statins can cause your blood sugar to rise and give a false reading … now I wonder if I am diabetic or if it was the statins causing the rise in my blood sugar?

  14. CLN
    Reply

    20 years ago Israel reported Simvastatin was a porphyrinogenic drug and should be used with extreme caution in patients with hypercholesterolemia since they may have a latent porphyria. My family has hereditary coproporphyria. One of my brothers took a statin after bypass surgery and experienced muscle pain and an elevated CPK.
    I warned him about about him possibly having the porphyria and he is taking the lowest possible dose of a statin now. However, he may be at risk if he ever combines the statin with another drug which ups the risk of drug complications in porphyrias. His doctor blew off the report of porphyria in the family despite the fact porphyria is reported with rhabdomyolysis.
    Doctors have been trained to believe porphyrias are so rare they should never look for them despite several drug-induced disorders related to porphyrias. The final product of porphyrin metabolism is heme, an important component (prosthetic group) in several biochemicals besides hemoglobin— including myoglobin, P450 drug metabolizing cytochromes, respiratory chain cytochromes and biochemicals that counter the effects of free-radical damage.
    It is my opinion the porphyrias have been buried to protect the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. I am especially concerned with the reports of pancreatic cancer with statins since drug-induced pancreatitis is reported with several statins and acute and chronic pancreatitis are complications of porphyrias. There is some evidence of a link to eugenics to porphyrias, especially regarding the issue of epilepsy and Nazi euthanasia.
    Drug-refractory epilepsy is a major clue to porphyria. We have sporadic cases of deaths from drug-refractory epilepsy in the family, a report of a febrile seizure, a case of hepatocellular carcinoma (another disease associated with porphyrias) and early onset dementia. There is a Bermuda triangle in porphryia medical research between researchers, NIH and the mass media. Information just disappears.

  15. Anonymous Jane Doe
    Reply

    a bit of an update:
    There’s this new doctor in town and she is strictly for women especially those who are diabetic but also treats other ailments and takes a bit of a holistic approach along with the usual meds, a bit of a spiritual approach, and believes in aroma therapy, massage, and therapy pools too. I am going to check her out and see if she can take me as a patient. Her office is in a health center that has all sorts of nice things so it would be very beneficial! Woooot!
    My ex-husband bought me some gluten-free noodles to try out. He agrees that maybe that kind of pasta would be better for me so I am in the process of using them. I kind of suspected that wheat products, breads, pastas, cereals might effect my diabetes and my cholesterol intake.
    O.o
    p.s. if anybody has suggestions or remarks they would like to add I would be glad to hear you out.
    Thanks!

  16. Anonymous Jane Doe
    Reply

    I am a type 2 diabetic on Metformin HCI 1,000mg, Avandia 8mg, then switched to Glipizide 5mg 2x daily . Was put on Coreg CR 20mg 1tablet daily, and Trilipix DR 135mg 1 tablet daily (I think this is a similar or byproduct of Lipitor).
    I was having all kinds of bad side effects plus these other things:
    Blood pressure was elevated, Blood sugars had shot up to higher levels, legs and feet especially my toes were, and still are, always tingly now and hurt. Legs cramp and hurt sometimes feeling like twin deadweights and numb. I told doc this but apparently he doesn’t listen well so I stopped taking all but my Metformin and Glipizide, (6 refills. I refuse to go back to this doctor that just wants to spit out meds without any regards to the effects they have on me.
    Will be looking around for another doc but I do “NOT” have much faith in physicians any more and can’t seem to find a decent one that actually cares about my health and will work with me. Bahhh! I am sorry but Doctors do not always know best!
    p.s. goes back to eating healthy foods especially certain vegetables and fruits which is most of my diet, and no they do not come from a can! I either buy fresh or frozen but prefer fresh. I also raise a garden each year so I know what goes on my fresh veggies etc.

  17. crandreww
    Reply

    Susie, I am so sorry to hear of your Statin problems, unfortunately I have not found much in the way of help for my symptoms of Muscle Pains, Weakness, Myoclonus, Neuropathy, Chronic profound fatigue, etc. If you are over 40ish, I would recommend upping your CoQ10 to the more readily usable raw form, Ubiquinol, When Dr Golomb recommended this to me about 5 years ago, and to double my dose as needed, which I did until I was taking 200mg Ubiquinol, twice daily… this really helped my fatigue tremendously, but I am still plagued my these symptoms until I am back in bed to sleep again.
    Another thing that really helps, is when I can sneak a 15-20 minute nap in now and again, recharges the Mitochondria… which really makes a difference for me on the days I nap. I would like to recommend to you a book I read not too long ago, by Shane Ellison, a former Medicinal Chemist, who became disgusted with what the Pharma industry was doing to millions of people for the dollar… putting profits in front of patients… his book sells for about 10 bucks on Amazon, called “Over the Counter Natural Cures”….
    Wish I had a magic fix to report to you,
    God Bless!
    Chris

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